Aaron Lee Tasjan, "Karma for Cheap" (New West)
When performing on a cruise ship, Aaron Lee Tasjan has been known to play New York Dolls music that sends listeners fleeing for the exits. The amusing lesson: Don't try to pigeonhole this guy.
The one-time glam rocker has dabbled in Americana, and on tour does a hilarious Dylan-style talking blues. Now he's into ear candy.
"Karma for Cheap" is a 10-song pop potpourri heavy on hooks and memorable melodies, with pounding piano and plenty of air guitar invitations. There's a slightly druggy haze to the whole thing and the album echoes classic rock, from ELO ("The Rest Is Yet to Come") and The Traveling Wilburys ("Heart Slows Down") to Elliott Smith ("Dream Dreamer") and Tom Petty ("Set You Free"). Bits of The Beatles abound.
But there's nothing stale about the material because it's so well-crafted and joyfully performed by Tasjan and his touring band, which includes standout guitarist Brian Wright. It also helps that there's a topical bent to the lyrics, which stress the need to overcome the negativity of creepy times.
This album should improve anyone's world outlook, and it captures the considerable charms of Tasjan's live performances, even without any New York Dolls covers.